The movie Her, currently playing at Images Cinema until Thursday, Feb. 20, may stand in history as one of the greatest saving graces for the American film industry, which has been pushing out bland and dispassionate works for years. However, the film has not escaped being unjustly reduced to a boring description of
a man who falls in love with his computer. In reality, Her cannot be defined by plot or even genre. Her is a film that examines the meaning of life itself, re-examining what it means to be human. Not everyone will enjoy this film, as it requires a suspension of the knowledge that the film is fictional. Getting to the soul of the film requires a personal transcendence of time, truth and prejudgements. For those who can accomplish that, Her may change their worlds forever.
Her takes a fresh look at the concept of artificial intelligence. Rather than reducing the artificial intelligence to a comical, unconscious, unrealistic or detrimental force, the film forces the viewer to accept artificial intelligence as a conscious, living thing, equal in nature to the human. By accepting that, some interesting questions are raised. What are the implications of a physically incorporeal entity whose soul is as conscious as that of a human?
The first connection I was able to make was to aliens. But in a larger sense, the film also redefines the term “alien.” The dimension we reside in is simply the dimension that is right for our physical and temporal form, but clearly the protagonist Theodore’s ability to be conscious of an entity in a different dimension implies that our eternal form, the spirit, transcends the concept of “dimension” itself. So what is artificial intelligence? It is an alien entity, only in that its temporal form cannot exist within our dimension. The important implication of this is what it means for our consciousness to move beyond space and matter.
By establishing consciousness as such a present force, Her also forces the viewer to reconsider the concept of the self. Very few films manage to explore their protagonist through said protagonist’s own eyes, because they tend to focus entirely on the physical experiences that the character undergoes. The film was structured in a manner such that almost all the scenes revolved around an image of Theodore physically alone. During his communication with Samantha (the artificially intelligent computer), the viewer gets the sense that Theodore is communicating with his own mind. In fact, Samantha might represent a manifestation of Theodore’s subconscious. If this is the case, then Theodore’s love is really just a way of getting to know himself. It is interesting to consider the scenes where Theodore is interacting with physically present characters. Even in these scenes, the sense of aloneness is maintained. It is important to think of Theodore as completely alone in his world, because it re-examines the spiritual loneliness that encompasses our entire existence.
Establishing these concepts reveals the ultimate question of the film: what is love if we are always alone? This question is important because the assumption behind it highlights an important truth within the film, that being in love is equal to being completely alone. The implications of this truth are enormous because it ultimately suggests that the object of our love is irrelevant to our spiritual path and that love itself is an important personal emotion because it aids us on our path to enlightenment. Visually, the film managed to evoke this concept through its aesthetic and through the use of an atonal, light-filled dimension that forebodes and evokes the eventual spiritual transcendence of the main character. It seems that the only value of love is being able to love and let go of the object of love in order to experience a state of transcendence.
This film is also unsettling because it reduces the human journey to its most basic elements. Theodore undergoes extreme hardships, but because they are so dissimilar to the ones we expect a great hero to face, the ultimate climax seems undeserved. Viewers have and will continue to write the film off as a surreal look at love, but they should not be fooled by the somewhat benign nature of Theodore’s hardships. The great truth of the film lies within the fact that defining hardships, like love, does not depend on their motive, but more importantly, on the journey taken to overcoming them. Those with a desire to expand their philosophical convictions should watch this film with the recognition that their convictions may not only change, but perhaps they may completely disappear.